Your sweater has come off the needles and you feel this huge, all-encompassing feeling of excitement, awe, pride, relief, and sometimes mourning the end of a journey you’ve enjoyed … and so much more. It’s like finishing a mission, a real achievement, and you just want to hug your finished project, or better yet: Put it on and wear it straight away.
How do you block a knitted sweater?
BUT WAIT! Believe it or not, your labour of love can get even better and more satisfying to wear after you’ve blocked it. Because blocking your knits helps to even out the stitches and, in most cases, get you the exact shape you have been aiming for with your project. If it’s a drapey fabric it will develop an even nicer drape and the overall piece will simply look nothing short of professional to the onlooker. Are you ready for this? Of course you are. So let's have a look at how to do this.
What you will need
Blocking mats or blocking surface
Blocking pins and/or combs
Your knitting pattern
Before you begin
Know that there are different blocking methods for different yarns and fabrics. Some people prefer steam blocking to wet blocking, and with very delicate pieces you may want to consider light spray blocking to not agitate the fibres and structure of your sweater unnecessarily.
In this article, we will describe the process of wet blocking your sweater, which means that your garment will be soaked in water first, and then squeezed in a towel before shaping it on your blocking mats. To begin, follow the washing instructions described in our article on wet blocking.
Next, it is important to note if your sweater is knit in one piece or from several pieces, because the methods used for each differ as you'll see in the following description.
How to block a one-piece sweater
When your sweater is soaked and the water squeezed out, gently unfold it on your blocking mats, you will work on the overall shape and dimensions of your sweater first, and then shape the inner pattern design thereafter.
Shaping the Body
First, you will need your pattern to hand to find the indicated dimensions for your sweater. Begin with the bust measurement by measuring across it with your measuring band, then padding and pinning it to dimension as indicated in your pattern. If your fabric has grown during washing, very gently pull it in and pad it out.
This padding technique in the shaping of your sweater allows stitches to find their position in the overall fabric and release tension elsewhere in the garment. It moves stitches closer together so that they can align evenly across the fabric.
On the other hand, if your sweater has shrunk a bit, never stretch it with force. Always use the padding technique to shape your garment into the desired form, just like @rizosknits on Instagram is so nicely showcasing here:
Once you’ve padded the bust to the right dimension, do the same with the rest of the body, fixating the side edges and bottom with pins or blocking combs. KnitIQ Blocking Mats will make it easy for you to get a straight line so that you only need to use your measuring band once across the bust and top to bottom. The rest of the body can be blocked along the grid lines of KnitIQ’s Blocking Mats for Knitting.
Shaping the Neck & Shoulders
Next, it’s time to look at the width of your shoulders and shape them according to the dimensions in your pattern like @rizosknits on Instagram is doing in this picture.
Once you've shaped the shoulders, you can move on to pad your neckline to create a smooth curve and even look for your finished garment.
This exercise can be quite calming for your senses as well, like a mindfulness practice, because your entire focus is on your knitted piece. And it's really worth it! Because the satisfaction one feels at a picture-perfect sweater when it finally comes off the mats is simply priceless. You will see.
Shaping the Sleeves
Now that body, neck and shoulders are in place, you can move on to the sleeves. Make sure that your sleeves are the same length and width on both sides when padding them to shape.
How to block a sweater knit in several pieces
Getting your dimensions right is even more important when you are blocking a sweater, or cardigan, made from several pieces. If this is the case, you need to have your pattern ready and… get marking! That’s right, for this approach we mark out the dimensions of each piece first, which is particularly easy with KnitIQ Blocking Mats because they have 1 inch gridlines for easy measurement, straight lines and perfect symmetry.
All you need to do is start with the body part of your sweater by marking its bottom edges and top edges with a pin each. Then begin at a lower corner of your layout by moving your finger along the 1-inch squares all the way up to the shoulders and neck, placing pins where necessary, until you reach the vertical middle line of your sweater at the neck.
From here, marking the second half is easy. You simply look at the pins on the half you have already marked out and place your markers like a mirror on the other side by moving your finger in equal measure across the middle line. This is where the gridlines on KnitIQ Blocking Mats come in handy, because they make it easy to get a perfect symmetry, even without using a measuring band.
Next you’ll need a string of yarn to wind around the marker pins so that you can visually see the area that needs to be covered. When you are done, repeat this process for the sleeve layout.
Next, place the soaked and squeezed back part of your sweater within the markings on your mat and unfold it very gently. Then use the padding technique as shown in the video above to shape along the marked lines. Again, start with the overall dimension and shape before working on the inner pattern design.
Once you are satisfied, take your front piece and place it ON TOP of the back piece within the same marker lines. Then repeat the process for the front piece. Once done, you do the same for your sleeves. This ensures that all the pieces that need to match exactly in size to be sewn together really fit effortlessly. And once your sweater has dried and come off the mats, you can enjoy wearing your professionally shaped sweater and let people tell you how great it looks, because it will!
NOTE: If it takes your pieces too long to dry with both parts laid out on top of each other, and if you have enough space, you can of course mark out two body parts and two sleeves. Just make sure the markings have exact measures so that the pieces match for sewing.
Back to KnitIQ Guide to Blocking